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1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
Washington, D.C. 20590
July 21, 2010
In Reply Refer To: HOTO-1
Joe Olson, P.E.
City of Fort Collins
P.O. Box 580
Fort Collins, CO 80522-0580
Dear Mr. Olson:
Thank you for your June 24 letter requesting an interpretation of various sections of the 2009 edition of the MUTCD. You asked six specific questions, for which we provide our answers and/or interpretations of the applicable MUTCD provisions below:
FHWA response: A Hybrid Beacon is defined in Section 1A.13 as a "special type of beacon" rather than a special type of traffic control signal. Therefore, neither a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) nor an Emergency-Vehicle Hybrid Beacon (EVHB) is considered to be a traffic control signal. Accordingly, the Guidance in Paragraph 4 of Section 8C.09 technically does not apply to a PHB or EVHB. However, because both of these types of hybrid beacons function somewhat similar to a traffic control signal once the hybrid beacon has been activated from a dark condition by a pedestrian or emergency vehicle actuation, stopping vehicular traffic for a certain time interval, the operation of a hybrid beacon can create safety concerns if it backs up traffic across the highway-rail grade crossing. Preemption as discussed in Section 8C.09 is intended to ameliorate such concerns. Therefore, it is our interpretation that hybrid beacons located within 200 feet of a highway-rail grade crossing equipped with a flashing-light signal system should be provided with preemption.
FHWA response: Flashing-light signals are defined in Section 1A.13 as "warning devices" and, as such, they are not considered to be traffic control signals. Therefore, the operation of such red flashing-light signals at a grade crossing simultaneously with the circular green or circular yellow indications of an adjacent traffic control signal is not a violation of paragraph 11 of Section 4D.05.
FHWA response: A flashing yellow beacon, deployed as a Warning Beacon, Intersection Control Beacon, or Speed Limit Sign Beacon, is a beacon and is not a traffic control signal, because it does not alternately direct traffic to stop and permit traffic to proceed. A flashing yellow beacon is merely a warning device. Also, our response to your Question 2 above explained that flashing-light signals at grade crossings are also not considered to be traffic control signals. Therefore, the operation of a flashing yellow beacon adjacent to a grade crossing simultaneously with the display of the flashing red indications of an adjacent flashing-light signal is not a violation of Paragraph 11 of Section 4D.05.
FHWA response: As noted in our response to Question 1 above, PHBs are not considered to be traffic control signals. As noted in our response to Question 2 above, "flashing-light signals" are "warning devices" and, as such, they are not considered to be traffic control signals. Therefore, the operation of flashing-light signals (or the operation of flashing red lights on a gate) at a grade crossing simultaneously with the circular yellow indications of an adjacent PHB or EVHB is not a violation of Paragraph 11 of Section 4D.05.
FHWA response: Each of the cases is discussed individually as follows:
FHWA response: Section 4D.05, Paragraph 3, Item F.1 states that a steady GREEN ARROW signal indication "shall be displayed only to allow vehicular movements, in the direction indicated, that are not in conflict with other vehicles moving on a green or yellow signal indication and are not in conflict with pedestrians crossing in compliance with a WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) or flashing UPRAISED HAND (symbolizing DONT WALK) signal indication." It further states that "vehicles departing in the same direction shall not be considered in conflict if, for each turn lane with moving traffic, there is a separate departing lane, and pavement markings or raised channelization clearly indicate which departure lane to use." This language therefore precludes the simultaneous display of a green right-turn arrow for one approach and either a steady circular green or a flashing yellow left-turn arrow (and also during the steady yellow change interval that follows either the circular green or flashing yellow arrow) for a permissive left-turn movement on the opposing approach, unless both the right-turn and opposing left-turn movements have separate departing lanes into which to turn and pavement markings or raised channelization clearly indicate which departure lane to use.
Thank you for writing on these subjects. We hope that our interpretations answer your questions. For the next edition of the MUTCD, we will consider proposing revisions to the Section 1A.13 definitions of "beacon," "highway traffic signal," and "traffic control signal" to more clearly and accurately reflect the intended application of provisions such as those you questioned. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Wainwright by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 202 366 0857. Please note that we have assigned your request the following official interpretation number and title: "4(09)-2(I) - Hybrid Beacons Adjacent to Grade Crossings." Please refer to this number in any future correspondence regarding this issue.
Original signed by:
Mark R. Kehrli
Director, Office of Transportation Operations
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration